Identity crisis: Face recognition technology and freedom of the will

Ethics, Place and Environment 8 (2):141 – 158 (2005)
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Abstract

In this paper I present the position that the use of face recognition technology (FRT) in law enforcement and in business is restrictive of individual autonomy. I reason that FRT severely undermines autonomous self-determination by hobbling the idea of freedom of the will. I distinguish this position from two other common arguments against surveillance technologies: the privacy argument (that FRT is an invasion of privacy) and the objective freedom argument (that FRT is restrictive of one's freedom to act). To make this case, I suggest that autonomy itself is predicated on the possibility of acting ethically, of freely willing moral laws. I then claim that autonomous self-determination is established as self-determination via social interactions with others. If we conceptualize self-determination as a relation of establishing a claim to individual autonomy in a community of others, we can see how planned uses of FRT subvert possibilities for the establishment of socially recognized agency. FRT not only confuses the process of asking ethical questions but it also imposes the immanent likelihood that all actions are taken not by self-directed, free agents, but by passive subjects in the interest of abiding by the institutionally enforced law.

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Benjamin Hale
University of Colorado, Boulder

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